Who knew you’d be spending so much time at home with your partner?
It’s a weird time, isn’t it? The COVID-19 crisis and specifically, the stay-at-home or “lockdown” orders around the world have created a lot of stress and challenges for couples everywhere.
Suddenly, you’ve got a lot of time together. You’re almost never apart. You’re in each other’s space.
You’d think that would be romantic, but for many couples, all this togetherness has resulted in partners who are more irritable and snippy.
Maybe the things about your partner that only used to bother you a little bit before are now driving you crazy.
Perhaps you feel overwhelmed, your nerves are raw, and your patience is shot.
Or you feel strangely melancholy about your relationship, because your partner isn’t as responsive and engaged as you need him or her to be right now. You’re worried or anxious and they don’t want to hear it.
So you feel unheard, unloved, and shut out.
If so, you’re not alone. I’ve heard many, many couples complaining to me about how this forced “togetherness” of the COVID-19 crisis has put a strain on their relationship.
And almost none of them understand the underlying reason WHY they’re having so many conflicts now.
So if you are experiencing your own relationship crisis right now, keep reading, because I’m going to explain why this may be happening, and what you can do about it.
What’s the hidden dynamic?
The degree to which you and your partner are either an introvert or an extrovert.
Let’s talk about the introvert / extrovert dynamic for just a moment.
You probably chose each other because you had a lifestyle compatibility. Or because you had worked out a system where you could both get your needs met.
For introverts, your battery is charged from being alone, being quiet, not being interrupted, and having your own personal space. Introverts need this quiet time, one-on-one time and time alone so they can be available for relationship and interested in their partner.
Introverts don’t like to be overwhelmed by their partner.
It’s not that introverts don’t need relationships. They need it just as much as extroverts, it’s just that they need to charge their battery and build up the emotional capital and energy to be available to a more extroverted partner.
Introverts get their battery charged by getting their “alone time”. When they have adequate alone time, they will feel available for their partners and therefore won’t come across as stand-offish, unavailable, or rejecting.
Extroverts, on the other hand, get energized and gain emotional capital by being with people, qengaging in conversations and doing joint projects. That way, when you’re alone or have to do solitary activities—like work—you feel comfortable and safe. You’re grateful to have had your battery charged with socializing so you can emotionally manage your time alone.
Extroverts get their battery charged by being social and talkative. When they get adequate social time, they will feel more relaxed with alone time, and therefore won’t come across as clingy, needy, or “too much” within a love relationship.
Spending time together at home—especially if you have an introvert / extrovert dynamic going on can be really challenging.
Knowing this, what can you do?
Here’s what to do if you recognize and agree that the introvert / extrovert dynamic is what’s behind your irritability and disappointment with your partner right now.
First, figure out who you are. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
What are your needs for both alone time and social time?
What are your partner’s needs?
Sometimes you may have similar needs. Maybe two partners are more introverted or extroverted.
But very often, one partner is more introverted or extroverted than the other.
You may have your individual needs, but your relationship needs something, too. It needs you to work together to come up with creative ways to get each other’s needs met!
The key here is to not take it personally if you feel either overwhelmed by your partner or neglected by your partner at this unusual time.
I am hearing from couples that one person feels unloved, shut out, or neglected just because one partner needs time alone. Somehow that extrovert has been wired to think more engagement equals love.
I think it’s really important that if you’re going to spend time indoors under the same roof for the time being, that you honor these differences in introversion and extroversion.
Here are some ideas for getting your needs met, based on your personality type.
Whenever you need time alone, put on a hat or scarf or special t-shirt to signal to your partner that you’re having your alone time and they shouldn’t take it personally.
I knew a couple who did this early on in their marriage when they were living in a small apartment. I thought it was a creative way of getting your needs met in a loving, non-confrontational way.
The introvert gets their alone time, and the extrovert knows it’s not about her. She’s still loved.
Have what I call a 3-minute conversation.
The thinking behind this idea is that as an introvert, you enjoy and need interaction with your partner. You like to talk and you want your partner to listen and respond. Your partner, however, may not be a natural talker or a patient listener.
Here’s what you do for this activity. Schedule a time when you’re both relaxed. This will take a minimum of 6 minutes, but you can go longer if you’d like.
Get a timer and set it for 3 minutes. Start saying whatever is on your mind. Talk as much as you want, but you have to do a hard stop at 3 minutes, no going over! You can do it. This isn’t hard. Anyone can tolerate doing something they’re not generally excited about for 3 minutes.
When your 3 minutes is up, your partner gets to speak for 3 minutes. If they’re an introvert, their challenge might be to fill up that time (whereas the extrovert’s challenge was to limit themselves). This can be a fun daily activity where you can come together and tune in to each other without overwhelming (or underwhelming) your partner.
There may be other creative ways you can work together to get your needs met right now. Make figuring these out a priority if you’re in a lot of conflict.
There’s no reason you can’t come out of this crisis more loving and understanding of yourself and your partner!
These two ideas are an example of adding in positives to remedy a contentious situation.
When you’re not getting your needs met—especially in these challenging times of coronavirus—it’s easy to complain, withdraw, or blame. But those strategies won’t get you anywhere.
A far better strategy is to focus on the positive, and take positive, creative action, or make a positive request.
If you strengthen your connection—or how you relate to each other, show up, behave, and tune in—you’ll be surprised at how little intensity and impact the issues you’re facing now will have on your daily life.
You’ll stop having heavy conversations that lead nowhere.
You’ll focus on the solutions, and you’ll approach each other in a more positive, trusting way.
He’ll stop trying to avoid you, and your relationship will feel loving again.
Focusing on your connection can make you both happier, and bring you close again.
It can allow you to overcome just about any crisis, solve just about any issue and feel closer than you did—even when you were first falling in love.
I know it can, because I’ve worked with thousands of couples in my 40+ year career and have helped them transform their relationship, no matter what problems they were facing, by showing them how to reconnect and stay connected.
But I can’t possibly work individually with everyone who needs that kind of help. That’s why I’ve partnered with Flourish, so I can extend that help and guidance to as many people as possible, since almost all couples can benefit from these insights and tips.
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A relationship doesn’t need to lose passion and connection, just because you’ve been together for a long time. Just the opposite! It should get sweeter and more loving with time.
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The advice contained in the articles I’ve written for Flourish will help you uncover the hidden issues that are draining your relationship of joy and passion, and help you create and maintain a strong foundation of love and respect, so that your relationship can last a lifetime.
May you have an extraordinary day,